bestnom1000x50

Hillary: setting back women in politics?

Hillary's role as the first truly credible female presidential candidate has offered a lot of grist for the gender mill, from her attempts, via macho swagger, to emasculate Obama, to calls that our concepts of power be separated from such reductionist terms as "pussy" and "balls."

Now, Barbara Ehrenreich has a related great read in the Nation:

In Friday's New York Times, Susan Faludi rejoiced over Hillary Clinton's destruction of the myth of female prissiness and innate moral superiority, hailing Clinton's "no-holds-barred pugnacity" and her media reputation as "nasty" and "ruthless." Future female presidential candidates will owe a lot to the race of 2008, Faludi wrote, "when Hillary Clinton broke through the glass floor and got down with the boys."

 

I share Faludi's glee -- up to a point. Surely no one will ever dare argue that women lack the temperament for political combat. But by running a racially-tinged campaign, lying about her foreign policy experience, and repeatedly seeming to favor McCain over her Democratic opponent, Clinton didn't just break through the "glass floor," she set a new low for floors in general, and would, if she could have gotten within arm's reach, have rubbed the broken glass into Obama's face.

 

A mere decade ago, Francis Fukuyama fretted in Foreign Affairs that the world was too dangerous for the West to be entrusted to graying female leaders, whose aversion to violence was, as he established with numerous examples from chimpanzee society, "rooted in biology." The counter-example of Margaret Thatcher, perhaps the first head of state to start a war for the sole purpose of pumping up her approval ratings, led him to concede that "biology is not destiny." But it was still a good reason to vote for a prehistoric-style club-wielding male.

 

Not to worry though, Francis. Far from being the stereotypical feminist-pacifist of your imagination, the woman to get closest to the Oval Office has promised to "obliterate" the toddlers of Tehran -- along, of course, with the bomb-builders and Hizbullah supporters. Earlier on, Clinton foreswore even talking to presumptive bad guys, although women are supposed to be the talk addicts of the species. Watch out! was her distinctly unladylike message to Hugo Chávez, Kim Jong-Il and the rest of them -- or I'll rip you a new one. ....

 

Whatever violent and evil things men can do, women can do too, and if the capacity for cruelty is a criterion for leadership, as Fukuyama suggested, then [Abu Ghraib's] Lynndie England should consider following up her stint in the brig with a run for the Senate.

 

It's important -- even kind of exhilarating -- for women to embrace their inner bitch, but the point should be to expand our sense of human possibility, not to enshrine aggression as a virtue. Women can behave like the warrior queen Boadicea, credited with slaughtering 70,000, many of them civilians, or like Margaret Thatcher, who attempted to dismantle the British welfare state. Men, for their part, are free to take as their role models the pacifist leaders Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. Biology conditions us in all kinds of ways we might not even be aware of yet. But virtue is always a choice.

 

Hillary Clinton has smashed the myth of innate female moral superiority in the worst possible way -- by demonstrating female moral inferiority. We didn't really need her racial innuendos and free-floating bellicosity to establish that women aren't wimps. As a generation of young feminists realizes, the values once thought to be uniquely and genetically female -- such as compassion and an aversion to violence -- can be found in either sex, and sometimes it's a man who best upholds them.

| More


ADVERTISEMENT
 Friends' Activity   Popular 
All Blogs
Follow the Phoenix
  • newsletter
  • twitter
  • facebook
  • youtube
  • rss
ADVERTISEMENT
Latest Comments
ADVERTISEMENT
Search Blogs
 
Not For Nothing Archives